I believe that the most significant changes we make within ourselves often come out of learning experiences. Although this isn’t the ideal way to make a relevant change in some aspect of our lives, more often than not, it is the catalyst. Recently, my dad suffered from a minor stroke. For my entire life, my dad has been a strong, enduring presence in my life. I can’t even remember a time when he has had so much as a cold. Now, as an adult and a medical student, I struggle with accepting and understanding the battle he is facing with his own health.
This experience compelled me to do research beyond what I have been taught about what the outcome of a stroke can be. Simply put, a stroke occurs when the blood supply to one part of the brain is interrupted or if a blood vessel breaks open. Symptoms of a stroke can vary from loss of coordination and balance to tingling muscles. This vague pain can cause a stroke to go unnoticed in some individuals, as was the case with my dad. A stroke is considered a medical emergency and it is extremely important to seek medical care because if the stroke is detected early on, there are steps that can be taken to lessen the extent of the damage. When blood flow is interrupted for more than a few seconds, the resulting damage can be permanent. My dad’s case is one where he complained of muscle weakness and had a slight loss of coordination. Unsure of what the cause was, the stroke went undetected and now he is left with permanent damage to his speech and hemiparesis. Sadly, 25% of patients who recover from their first stroke will have another stroke within five years.
My dad always told me that every mistake is an opportunity to learn. From every fall we take, we stand up and we fix the very things that made us fall to begin with. I look at this experience and I am thankful. I am thankful that he isn’t facing severe paralysis and I am thankful that the damage is minor. Yet, I am also scared. I am scared because the certainty of his future health relies on his ability to change his behavior and his lifestyle. Every individual, patient and person is responsible for their own healthcare. No one can force another person to care for themselves; it’s a choice that has to be made by that person, and that person alone.
Although this story is short, the idea is simple. We live our lives every day in the way that we see fit for ourselves. At the end of the day we have to examine our choices and really decide if it is best for us and for those who love us the most.